31 Days of the Christmas story from Genesis to John: Day 4 – God chooses a family

harpist

From the time of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the nation of Israel had increased to over a million people. Their large numbers were seen as a threat and they were held captive in Egypt for 400 years until God calls Moses to lead the people out of bondage to a place called Mt. Sinai (modern day Saudi Arabia). There, God gives them instructions for building a tabernacle for worship, and they soon become an organized people with a system of laws and government. Joshua becomes the next leader and he leads the people into the Promised Land in Canaan, the land God had promised to Abraham.

The nation of Israel is ruled by judges for several years after this until a prophet by the name of Samuel is born. Samuel is the last judge of Israel before the people decide they want to have a king like the other nations. They choose Saul to be their first king, though he later goes mad. God then tells the prophet Samuel to anoint a young man named David from the tribe of Judah to be their next king.

King David is a popular and successful king. But even more importantly, he is chosen by God. The prophet Nathan has a vision for King David, and this becomes the Davidic Covenant. It is an unconditional covenant, which means it cannot be undone by our own actions. It states that an everlasting kingdom will come from the house of David. This becomes the fourth prophecy about the coming Messiah and Savior.

2 Samuel 7:16
“Your house and kingdom will endure before Me forever,
and your throne will be established forever.’”

All three of these things (house, kingdom, and throne) are fulfilled in Jesus, as told by the angel Gabriel to the virgin Mary, who was from the house of David.

Luke 1:32-33
“He will be great
and will be called the Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give Him
the throne of His father David.
He will reign over the house of Jacob forever,
and His kingdom will have no end.”

May you experience the joy and good news that was announced by the angel Gabriel on that night long ago,
when God came down to earth to fulfill His promise of a Savior and a Kingdom that will never end.

 * Merry Christmas *

31 Days of the Christmas story from Genesis to John: Day 5 – Jehoiakim’s curse

mary-and-joseph-travel-to-bethlehem

This is one of my favorite, little-known stories in the Bible, and it makes all the difference in the world. The plot thickens as the fate of the nation of Israel and the much-talked about prophecy of the Messiah seems doomed.

The nation of Israel fell on hard times after King David’s reign. Their hopes and dreams to be a great nation that would be a blessing to all nations was shattered. By about 600 BC, the nation had become divided and exiled from their homeland because of their idolatry and worshiping of other gods, something God had specifically warned them against. The magnificent temple that David’s son, King Solomon had built and stood for 400 years was destroyed. The once-great kingdom was divided. The northern kingdom, called Israel, was exiled to Assyria. The southern kingdom, called Judah, was exiled to Babylonia. The northern kingdom never had another good king and would never return to their land, but the southern kingdom of Judah, whose capital city was Jerusalem, still held to the promise that the line of David would always sit on the throne.

Several famous prophets arose during this time – Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Daniel. They warned the people to turn back to God or face judgement, and to remind them about the hope of the coming Messiah. Jeremiah was the last prophet to speak before Jerusalem was destroyed. During this time, Jehoiakim was the King of Judah and was very evil. He heavily taxed the people and had them build an extravagant palace for him without paying them for their labor. He even burned the scroll that Jeremiah wrote. God was angry with Jehoiakim and cursed him through the prophet Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 22:30
Therefore this is what the Lord says about Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah:
“Record this man as if childless,
a man who will not prosper in his lifetime,
for none of his offspring will prosper,
none will sit on the throne of David
or rule anymore in Judah.”

Jehoiakim was so evil that God cursed him and his offspring – the very line of David. And this curse seems to void the unconditional Davidic covenant that said the Messiah would inherit the throne through an heir from David’s line. If none of Jehoiakim’s descendents, as heirs to the line of David, could ever sit on the throne again in Judah, how could this prophecy be fulfilled? And the curse came true. Jehoiakim’s descendents never did sit on the throne again. All hope seemed lost forever. But what may look to be humanly impossible is always possible through God. Divine intervention was required.

Fast-forward about 400 years. There had been no more prophets, no word from God, and a doomed curse and impossible way for a Messiah to come. We know the story of Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus, but is this contradictory to God’s own curse of Jehoiakim? Mary’s husband Joseph was a rightful heir to the throne of David, but neither he nor any of his children could ever sit on the throne of David because he was a descendent of Jehoiakim. The requirement for the prophecy to be fulfilled was that the Messiah must be both an heir to the throne and an offspring in the line of David. It was impossible for one person to fulfill both roles without going against the curse.

Mary was a descendent of Nathan, David’s other son. Nathan was an offspring of David but not an heir to the throne. However, through the virgin birth (a divine intervention), Mary was able to fulfill both. The biological requirement to be in the line of David was fulfilled through Mary. By marriage to her husband Joseph, he fulfilled the legal requirement of being an heir without biologically having an offspring which would violate the curse. Without the divine intervention of a miraculous virgin birth, the Messiah would not have been possible. This is not the only time in the story of the Bible where evil forces try to stop the coming of the Messiah. It is a continuous conflict throughout, but one that never succeeds.

May you have faith in the God who can make all things possible,
the God of miracles, the One who can and always will provide a way of hope. Nothing is impossible for God.

* Merry Christmas *

Names of Jesus: Everlasting Father

In a time where everything is instant and temporary, the thought of everlasting is almost forgotten.  But it is still there, in eternity.  Isaiah 9:6 names Jesus as the Everlasting Father.  This is an eternal father (protector, provider, creator) who has no end.  Many earthly fathers may have failed to provide or protect us, but Jesus promises to be a father who never leaves us.  Isaiah further explains the everlasting in the next verse.

The dominion will be vast,
and its prosperity will never end.
He will reign on the throne of David
and over his kingdom, to establish and sustain it
with justice and righteousness from now on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:7)

About one hundred years after Isaiah, the prophet Jeremiah talks of the Davidic Covenant – one with no end and no conditions.  God promises David and the nation of Israel that the Messiah will come from the line of David, tribe of Judah (see Leah, the Unloved – a Christmas story ), and establish a kingdom that will last forever.  No conditions of obedience on David or Israel are placed on this covenant, it is solely on God’s faithfulness and promise.  In other words, we can’t mess it up and we can’t stop it. God’s promises always come true.

“Look, the days are coming”— this is the Lord’s declaration—
“when I will fulfill the good promises that I have spoken
concerning the house of Israel and the house of Judah.
In those days and at that time I will cause a Righteous Branch
to sprout up for David, and He will administer justice
and righteousness in the land. 
In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely,
and this is what she will be named: Yahweh Our Righteousness. 

“For this is what the Lord says: David will never fail to have a man sitting on the throne of the house of Israel. The Levitical priests will never fail to have a man always before Me to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings, and to make sacrifices.” (Jeremiah 33:14-18)